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Fox News Seeks Sanctions in Andrea Tantaros Case

Variety logo Variety 5/24/2017 Brian Steinberg
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Fox News Channel said it would seek sanctions against the attorney handling a case filed against it and two of its senior executives by Andrea Tantaros, a one-time Fox News staffer, and dismissed her lawsuit as a “hoax.”

In a memo filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, attorneys for Fox News said Tantaros’ claims, which involved allegations of false “sock puppet” social-media accounts set up for the purposes of harassment, were untrue. “Pleadings in federal court are not supposed to be works of fiction; they must be grounded in fact,” said the memo, filed on behalf of Fox News Channel, former co-president Bill Shine, and executive vice president of corporate communications Irena Briganti.

Judd Burstein, an attorney for Tantaros, in a statement dismissed Fox News’ motion as “frivolous.”

“Mr. Burstein, who has already been chastised by the state court in this dispute, simply seeks to divert attention from his baseless federal complaint by misstating the facts,” said Andrew J. Levander, a attorney at Dechert working on behalf of Fox News, in a statement. “Our motion for sanctions, supported by indisputable sworn statements and documentary evidence as well as overwhelming judicial authority, speaks for itself.”

Tantaros, a former host of Fox News shows like “The Five” and “Outnumbered,”  in August of last year filed suit alleging that senior executives at the 21st Century-owned network retaliated against her after she complained about being inappropriate remarks made to her by Roger Ailes, the former chairman and chief executive of the network. Ailes, who recently passed away, left Fox News last year in the wake of an investigation into allegations by current and former employees that he sexually harassed them. He denied all charges.

Her suit, which sought as much as $23 million, along with $26 million in punitive damages and the reimbursement of attorney fees, alleged Ailes made demeaning remarks to her, such as “I bet you look good in a bikini,” and also asked inappropriate questions about her romantic life as well as the lives of other Fox News staffers. When Tarantos and her representatives complained to senior Fox News executives, the suit alleges, the anchor was first moved to the daytime program “Outnumbered’ from “The Five,” and was told to cease her complaints because it was likely she would not prevail.

But Fox News’ new argument centers on allegations Tantaros made that  Fox News ” hacked her laptop computer, tapped her telephone, and then tortured her with the information gathered from those acts by sending her coded messages through a ‘sockpuppet’ social media account.” The new motion calls these allegations “an outright hoax,” and cites the example of a Twitter account operated by a Daniel Wayne Block. Tantaros had claimed Fox News used that account to tweet things to her that it had heard in her personal communications.

The legal matter is only one of several with which Fox News is contending. The cable unit is also the subject of a handful of lawsuits alleging sexual and racial discrimination at the company. Fox News has in recent weeks taken steps to bolster its human resources department and has put together a new senior staff.

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